Lorry rampage a 'lone terror attack'

One of the cars hit by the lorry as it careered through a Tel Aviv street

One of the cars hit by the lorry as it careered through a Tel Aviv street

A return of deadly terror attacks in Israel's cities or a fatal flat tyre? The timing of the incident seemed to leave little room for doubt.

On Sunday morning, for the Palestinian Nakba Day, a lorry began hitting cars and pedestrians on a crowded thoroughfare in the Tikva neighbourhood of south Tel Aviv.

After hitting five cars, toppling a traffic light, wounding 20 people and crushing a jeep - killing driver Aviv Morag who was trapped inside - the lorry finally came to a stop, against a bus and a primary school fence.

The driver, a 22-year-old from Kafr Kassem, whose name has been withheld by police, emerged unscathed from his cab, shouting "Allahu-akbar", and was arrested by police.

National Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino, who arrived at the scene, said: "All the characteristics of this incident fit a terror attack, not a traffic accident."

Under police questioning, the driver denied he had acted intentionally, claiming that he had lost control of the lorry due to a puncture in one of his front tyres. In a radio interview, his mother said: "My son is not involved in any kind of political or terror organisation. He works, comes home, goes to the mosque, that's it." She said that a recent visit by her son to Saudi Arabia was only for religious purposes and did not involve any meetings with terror organisations. The driver had no previous criminal record.

"It certainly has the all the hallmarks of a spontaneous, independent terror attack," said a security official, "and while the radicalisation of some of the Israeli Arabs intensifies and it remains difficult for the Palestinian organisations in the West Bank to export terror attacks to Israel, we can expect to see more incidents that require no planning or support and can be carried out by one lone radical with an Israeli identity card and a vehicle."

Last updated: 2:34pm, May 19 2011